by Joe Buonfiglio
At the time of this writing, it is the welcomed, the beloved, and the dreaded, the feared Valentine’s Day! For some, it is a time of expressing undying devotion to the one who most pulls the heartstrings in your life. For others, it is a lonely barstool moment reminding you that this person has been lost, has not yet been found or may never exist.
All in all, as holidays go, Valentine’s Day is a bit of a mixed bag on a societal level, emotionally speaking.
So because the Holy Roman Catholic Church makes some guy all hoity-toity in its own version of a Hall of Fame (although, it is uncertain whether St. Valentine was one individual or a pseudonym for several), greeting card companies find yet another excuse to guilt us into buying their cheesy products and the military-floral industrial complex conspires to funnel our hard-earned cash from our wallets into the latest in stealth killing machines by jacking the cost of roses up so high that we must decide between expressing our love to a significant other or sending our kid to college for another year. It’s fucking absurd … and that finally brings me to the point of this week’s diatribe.
As a self-diagnosed “Literary Absurdist,” I was most curious: What do some of the greatest Absurdists in history have to say on the subject of LOVE?
ALBERT CAMUS: Some people consider French philosopher, author and journalist Albert Camus (1913-1960) to be the father of modern Absurdism. And while he tended to speak more on life than love specifically, these little tidbits relate to the subject of love quite well if you think about it … and, in some cases, read between the lines:
“How unbearable, for women, is the tenderness which a man can give them without love. For men, how bittersweet this is.”
“Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question.”
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”
“Love is the kind of illness that does not spare the intelligent or the dull.”
“We always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love – first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage.”
— Albert Camus
Another many often attribute with significant contribution to the Absurdism movement is Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Kierkegaard is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher, so his views on love are, well, a bit like this:
“Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see.”
“Don’t forget to love yourself.”
“Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.”
“Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself.”
— Søren Kierkegaard
German-speaking Bohemian Jewish novelist and short story writer Franz Kafka (1833-1924), beloved by Absurdists everywhere as the author of The Metamorphosis, had an interesting take on the subject of love:
“Love is a drama of contradictions.”
“I can love only what I can place so high above me that I cannot reach it.”
“I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough.”
“You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart.”
” Love is, that you are the knife which I plunge into myself.”
— Franz Kafka
The prominent Spanish surrealist and artist Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) is revered by the Absurdist for best being able to bring absurd philosophy to life within the visual arts. His view on love reflects this well:
“For me, love must be ugly, looks must be divine and death must be beautiful.”
“The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”
— Salvador Dalí
Absurdist fiction tends to make use of literary devices such as dark humor, irrationality, escapism and satire to delve into the meaninglessness, even nihilistic surreality of the human experience of incompleteness or meaninglessness. There are few who mastered this craft better than author Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007). Here are some of Vonnegut’s thoughts on the subject of love:
“Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.”
“It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
“There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.”
— Kurt Vonnegut
So now, I shall leave you within the context of this absurd celebration of love by quoting the author best known for creating the Absurdist’s Bible (and one of the main reasons why I got into the Absurdist literature game), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mister Douglas Adams (1952–2001). And while he was not referring to love directly, I believe his subconscious knew EXACTLY what is was doing, for they are the two key tenets — No, key LAWS, actually. — to a successful mastery of love within the context of relationships:
“I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”
— Douglas Adams
As surreal, mystical, baffling, confusing and utterly ABSURD as it can all seem, love will find a way.
© 2018 Joseph P. Buonfiglio All Rights Reserved.